Twenty-Four

Twenty-four years ago today… she said, “I do.” And for twenty-four years, she has. Today I get the privilege of celebrating twenty-four years of wedded bliss with my best friend, Angela!

She is deeply spiritual… fiercely loyal… faithfully committed… ultra-compassionate… uber selfless… and yes, smokin’ hot! Not everyone gets the honor and privilege of knowing her so closely. If you did, you’d discover that she is even more amazing than you already know her to be.

I love how talented she is… how she wants to do things with excellence… how she nurtures and looks after those she loves… how cunning and sneaky she can be to surprise someone with something nice or to play a prank on someone… and yes, I love her cooking!

Scripture says that when God daw Adam, he saw that it was not good for him to be alone. He needed a companion. I’m pretty sure the Lord looked at me and thought the same thing. So He blessed me. He brought Angela alongside me to share this journey of life, and I am so thankful that He did.

All of our days have not been perfect. Our story has its rises and falls. But I wouldn’t trade a moment of it spent with her.

When I call her PR31, I reference the Proverbs 31 woman whom she so closely resembles in every subtle nuance. Today, I rise and call her blessed because of who she is, and because of her faithful love shared with me. And yet… I feel like I am the one who is blessed because I get to share this life with her.

Today, I thank the Lord 8,760 days we’ve shared so far… and look forward to all the days ahead we get to share together! May they be more than double that!!!

Keep Trying

I grew up in the city, and so building a fire on your property was something that was actually prohibited by law… and the home owners association rules. So, you can imagine why one of the reasons living on four beautiful acres in the middle of a wooded community with no restrictions appeals to me is the freedom to build a fire when and where I want on our property.

Now, I was a decent Royal Ranger– the boys program at our church which included camping, knot-tying, and building fires along with memorizing Scripture and helping others. During my tenure as a Royal Ranger, I was taught fire safety, and still try to abide by those guidelines.

But we build some fires at our place! Some roaring ones. (I mean, how are you going to make s’mores if you can’t build a fire?) When we first moved out here, it took me awhile to get back in the swing of building a good fire. But slowly, along with some help from YouTube, the boys and I have become pretty proficient at causing wood to flame.

Today was different, though, for some reason. I had collected some small branches and twigs which had rotted and fallen out of trees, and put them in the burn pile. I grabbed my dryer lint, my old mail advertisements and one of those long lighters. I piled the sticks just right. They were small and dry. They should have practically burst into flame. But I almost couldn’t get the thing to take off.

Thing is, I really needed to get that fire going because I had two small trees on our property which had died and needed to be taken down. There was going to be a lot of wood to burn, and I couldn’t seem to keep the flames alive. I kept adding advertisements, re-lighting dwindling embers, adding more lint. At one point, I was tempted to give up. But I knew I couldn’t. There was too much to do. I needed that fire.

So, I kept nursing it. I kept feeding it. I kept re-lighting it. And then it happened. Some of the twigs finally caught fire. And when they did, they flamed up and caught other sticks on fire. Soon, I had a decent enough amount of heat and bed of embers below the flames to know that I could keep adding all the wood I would need to today. In fact, the picture above is the last of the wood I added just a couple hours ago.

As I was trying– and not succeeding– earlier this morning with my attempts to get the fire going and keep it going, I realized that this can happen to each of us spiritually sometimes. We feel like all the fire in us has died out, and nothing we try seems to get it really going. We go to church. We listen to worship songs. We read the Bible and pray like the preacher told us would help. But no flame. Nothing lasting. Oh, maybe a quick little flare-up at a conference or service. But nothing that keeps the burning of God’s presence and power alive in us.

If that’s where you’re at today, I want to encourage you to do what I did with this literal fire today… Keep trying! Keep reading God’s Word. Pick up a devotional book that grabs your attention. Keep talking TO God even if you don’t feel like you’re talking WITH God. Keep the worship music playing… and sing along. Keep going to church… even if some of the people aren’t perfect and everything isn’t exactly the way you’d prefer. Keep trying. Because at some point, God will honor your commitment and faithfulness. He will burst into flame in your life, and you will be so glad you didn’t give up. Whatever you do, keep trying!

Who Are You Becoming?

Blue collar or white collar.

Advanced or challenged.

Asian, Hispanic, Caucasian or African.

Athletic or bookworm.

The actor in the movie said, “We are all born into a role, but the person you become is up to you.”

So my question today is… Who are you becoming?

I’m not asking what labels have been slapped on you by parents, educators, coaches, bosses or friends. I’m not asking how much you make or what you scored on a standardized test. I’m not asking what your bank account balance is. I’m not asking what challenges you have had to face because of where you were born or which family you were born into.

I’m simply asking… Who are you becoming?

You have been given the freedom to choose how you will live, regardless of where you live or how old you are. You get to choose how deeply you are going to love. You get to choose whether or not you will have a good attitude toward the authority figures in your life. You have the power over the words which come out of your mouth. So, who are you becoming?

Are you becoming a better version of yourself? Or are you just letting things slide?

There are times I look back over my life and wish like crazy that I had been wiser… more considerate… more self-disciplined. I could let that frustrate me, or I can let it mean that I have at least learned from those mistakes and become a better person.

Look, because of what Jesus Christ did for me, my sins are forgiven. That doesn’t mean I can just walk around acting however I want. While God views me as I will be… completely perfect… a finished product… it’s up to me to become a person who lives up to what He has done for me. I want to become more. I want to become a better husband. A better dad. A better son, brother, son-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle, and nephew. A better friend. A better leader. A better servant. I want to become more. I’m not content to stay at the same level emotionally or spiritually. (I know I should have added physically, but let’s face it… I’m fairly content. 😜)

What about you? Who are you becoming? Don’t get stuck. Don’t give up. You can be a better version of yourself tomorrow. And even better a year from now. So wear your “Hello, my name is…” nametag for now, but do all you can to keep becoming who you can be!

How Long Will You Fail?

I recently heard someone ask the question, “How long are you willing to try and fail before you quit?”

Yeah, I’ll give you a moment to ponder that one…

Some people quit before they even start because something seems too difficult. Others will try something for a little while, and see if they are good at it or can accomplish it quickly. Others will try until they cannot think of any other way to succeed on their own.

Then there are those who are determined. They are determined to keep trying even if they didn’t succeed the first time, or second time, or 29th time. They are determined to succeed if it takes more time, more effort, more money. They are determined to ask others to help them. They are determined not to give up.

I think about Abraham Lincoln who kept running for political offices even though he had lost in so many of his attempts to be elected. I think about Thomas Edison, who refused to give up when as many as 1,000 of his efforts at creating an incandescent light bulb failed, and when his first successful one was dropped by a young boy going to show others. I think about missionaries who have gone to places where they may only reach one convert in their decades of ministry on a foreign field. Those people were determined.

And I can’t get this question out of my mind.

I am typically not a quitter. I may be a steady plodder who understands that it may take me awhile to figure out how to do something… it may take me plenty of tries to get it right… I may have to find someone else who knows more about it than me to teach me how… I may have to save up slowly to have what I need to accomplish it… but I am usually willing to keep trying and failing if I believe deeply that what I’m doing is important and valuable. Yet I wonder if I sometimes give up too quickly or too soon?

Is there something in your life that you really want to accomplish? Do you want to run a marathon? Be a better dad? Invent something useful? Help widows? Stop human trafficking? Become an entrepreneur? Graduate? Write a book? Learn to paint?

What’s stopping you? To what extent are you willing to go to succeed? I’m not talking about doing wrong. The ends don’t justify the means. I’m simply asking if– like me– you might sometimes stop just a little too early. What if we were willing to try and fail even more so that we could learn and succeed even more?

So you didn’t get the job or get the promotion. So you didn’t pass the test. So you didn’t make the team or the band. So you didn’t inspire them or make them laugh. So you gained back some of the weight you lost. So you didn’t ________________________________.

Whatever it is that is blocking your path to succeeding at what God has put in your heart and mind to be and do, don’t quit yet. Be strong. Rest if you must, but don’t quit. Be courageous. Try something bold and different. Even if others think you are foolish for continuing to try, keep going for it. You’ll be the one laughing when you succeed at what they thought was impossible.

God is not a quitting God. His love never fails. He is always there to help us succeed when we look to Him for help. So, don’t give up today. Not just yet. You’ve got more in you. Try again. Fail again if you must, but just don’t stop believing or trying. In the end, you’ll be glad you were willing to try and fail as long as it took!

Believe In Tomorrow

Our friends who live in the north may have a difficult time believing this, but it is almost time for me to get out the tiller and turn over the ground in our garden patch in order to begin getting it ready for planting. I’ll have to till it up two or three times, weeding and leveling before we make rows and plant seeds and seedlings. But those seeds have to be in the ground by Good Friday around here, or there won’t be much to pick this summer:

I read this quote from Audrey Hepburn recently which caught my attention because I’ve got gardening in the back of my mind. She said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” That, my friends, is truth. We almost didn’t plant a garden last year because we weren’t sure if we would still be living here, but we went ahead and did all the work for the garden, whether for ourselves or someone else. I’m sure glad we did because we enjoyed a lot of veggies out of that garden all the way up into fall.

So, I’m planning to plant a garden in the back yard again this year. Do I know that we will be living here in the same place “tomorrow?” No, I do not. But someone will be living here. And someone will be glad we did the work to plant that garden.

You see, doing all the prep work and then planting a garden is an act of faith. It is believing there is going to be a tomorrow to go out and harvest what we’ve planted. It is an act of hope… trust… faith. It is believing that all the effort will have been worth it. It is believing there will be a pay-off or return for our investment.

The same is true in life. When we make the investment in time and effort and energy today, we say to ourselves and those around us, “I believe there is going to be a good tomorrow. I’m planning for it. I’m preparing for it. I’m looking forward to it.” That’s faith.

So, whatever you’re facing today, plant a garden… that is, believe in tomorrow. Don’t give up. Don’t avoid the prep work because it seems early… or looks daunting… or because you think you may not be the one to enjoy it. Getting ready says you believe there is a good future to look forward to. And there is! God has good things in store for those who love Him and follow Him. So, get your work gloves out, grab some tools, and let’s get that garden planted!

Yours Vs. Mine

I just got off the stationary exercise bike at our house. I typically ride six miles when I am using this bike for cardio exercise, and it usually takes me about 22-23 minutes to complete that six miles. Sometimes I pause it to jump off and do some circuit calisthenics, and so my routine may take a little longer. But by the time I’m done, I’ve worked up a good sweat, my heart has pumped at a good pace, and my muscles feel that they have been well-used.

Now, I know that there may be someone reading who is a fitness fanatic. You read those numbers, and you are severely underwhelmed. Perhaps you even did the math while you read and quickly estimated that my biking is almost a four-minute mile. Then you may have thought, “Allen, don’t you know that there are plenty of people who run four-minute miles? You’re not doing very good exercising if you are only biking a four-minute mile.”

But here’s the thing… I’m not competing against those people. I’m not in a race. I’m not working toward a personal record. Nothing wrong with those things. It’s just not what I’m setting out to accomplish. I’m simply trying to conquer another day of cardio to keep my body in good health. The goal is different. So, it’s not comparing apples-to-apples.

This is where we often get into trouble. We look down on ourselves because we don’t feel like what we are doing compares to what someone else is accomplishing. We feel like our four-minute mile on an exercise bike isn’t as good as someone else’s four-minute mile on foot in a marathon. But we need to focus on what we are trying to accomplish.

The writer of Hebrews says we are to run the race God has set before us. Not the race He has set before other people. The race He has set before us. When we do this, we honor Him and accomplish our assignment more effectively.

You don’t have to keep up with someone else. You don’t have to give as much as they give… or serve how they serve… or worship the same way they worship. You do have to be true & faithful to what God has set in front of you to do if you want to truly succeed in life. And when you focus on the race set before you, you’ll see yourself succeeding more and more.

So, if you’re not impressed with my speed on the exercise bike, that’s okay. I’m not trying to impress or out-do anyone else. I’m just trying to stay healthy so I can honor God with my life and be here for my family and those I serve. Every time I knock out another six miles in 22 minutes, I wipe the sweat from my brow and feel the success of victory over my own laziness.

For the record, I’m not trying to make my distance or time what you need to strive for either. You’ve got your own race set out before you. So get out there, and do what you’re meant to do. You’re going to be great!

Re-Birthday

Today, we have much to celebrate. We celebrate today because Alex and Austin share a birthday… or maybe I should say… a “re-birthday.” On this day, three years ago, PR31 had the privilege of leading both boys in prayer as they accepted Jesus Christ as the Forgiver of their sins and the Master of their lives.

In Scripture, we find that Jesus called it being “born again,” and the idea stuck with His followers. Being made right with God and adopted into His family is a lot like having a whole new birthday.

So this day is written on our “Remember” board in sharpie. This day pops up in our photo memories on the phone. This day is for celebrating.

You see, that day in 2016 marked the change of their eternal destiny. Now, they are children of God, not just children of Allen and Angela. Now, they have a future full of joy and hope spent with their loving Creator. Now, they do not have to worry if they are not perfect, because they have a Savior who is, and He is sharing His perfection with them… just because they asked.

If you’re not right with God today, don’t let another moment go by. Do what Alex and Austin did on this day three years ago…

1) Admit you blow it and do wrong things sometimes.

2) Accept that Jesus was punished and executed in your place for those crimes you commit against God when you do wrong.

3) Ask God to forgive you for past wrongs and help prevent you from future wrongs.

4) Invite Him to be in charge of your life, guiding you… leading you… directing you.

Do that today, and guess what? You’ll share a re-birthday with Alex and Austin! And that, my friend, is something to celebrate!


P. S. – If you make that choice today, would you let me know so that I can tell Alex and Austin their choice helped someone else? It would mean a lot to all of us!